blackmail press 21
Jane Griffin
New Zealand

crossed cultures - special issue
Jane Griffin is an Auckland poet.  She has performed her work at Poetry Live in Auckland and has ventured onto the stage of the Bowery Poetry Club in New York.  Her work is recently published on Blackmail Press and in Poetry New Zealand.  In January she read at Parihaka and last month at The Raye Freedman Arts Centre, where she is sometimes the Head of Drama, when she's not being a Senior Subject Advisor at The Faculty of Education at the University of Auckland.  She likes growing lillies and has recently visited Ruatoria.

(a poem for a journey to Manchuria)


3 a.m.
cat shares the i-pod
tumbling sea of notes
waking fright
tea steeps
a sleepless tidal wave

just before
16 hours of falling upwards
in an oblong box

Sleep now – answer answers
on the waking day
land line jangles from Anhui
Hefi dialogue
a mouthpiece cups your lips in darkness     
in another hemisphere                                   
you whisper porcelain words into my ear      
like “Mandarin, Madman, Macedonian”……

In Auckland you have left a beacon cut from
rusted steel
a tall amphora
swept in
on a cyclone

inside its heart
the solar luminaire
draws me
like a soft,
exotic moth
touch of cat-paw pads
claws retracted

draws me at a gallery

I gaze
press my cheek against the steel
extend an arm
release the shutter

picture this
digital day
heart flutters
it’s on you email in Hefi.


Now she is ironing in Beijing
Making believe she is a Chinese launderer
Pressing velvet through a damp cloth
organza and silk on a skirt the colour of duck eggs         
The skirt has a voice and it speaks in clichés…..says things like,
“the future belongs to those who believe in the power of their dreams”
She irons tenderly anyway
in order to ignore the oxyacetylene flashes of hundred half-complete hotel rooms opposite
coalsoot and

Sometimes on a walk she looks down at her feet, the struggling beds of clover, avenues of red carpet-roses in the backs of apartments.  The ground hides tiny signs beseeching “clean”, nestled among foliage, a kind of nano-nature under silken smog.  A tired child-designer walks her to the shopping mall.  They sell a hundred thousand objects - all too small.   
After babyshoeville she strides across the Lilliputian garden
over  white marble floors
sips on mandarin secrets like oolong,
bi luo chun


There are codes she knows how to write
addresses on the fronts of envelopes to Aotearoa/New Zealand from Manchuria, poems on the backs of bus tickets. 

As a child she learned to read with soup mix in a red and cream enamelled tin, picked letters from amongst the green split peas,
discarded orange lentils,
arranged them into meaning on a tray.   

A little later on she took to sets,
staged dramas underneath a naked birch. 

She fashioned these in moss and broken mirror shards then added violets or snapping twig……

and from these small beginnings she perceived
the topaz coloured pupils
gazing up


Peking was fine in china blue with bicycles
now Beijing
presents a fear of drowning

Like a Margaret Atwood girl

He said “Swim baby”
She said “Yes like Mao Tse Tung in the Huang Ho”
and this is how she started diving deep
and flying high like a clever rainbow fish           

Puts on her swimsuit
her heart has dragonfly wings
It hovers near the top of a sacred tower            
dreams of Jung He, astronomy and sculpture
shares stories with an English speaking Chinese peasant girl
It’s Monday in Mongolia and the words leap from her mouth
Pu-Yi died sometime ago
and the peasant girl knows about five Alices in New Zealand now
and new ways into

Later after the telling she lies spent on a silken carpet
waits for the rain to pass, the seasons to change, eats mooncakes
traces airborne arcs across the Gobi and travels south,           
remembers in a dream she left a watermark,
a pictogram upon the desert’s edge
of another language
she will never fully understand.

Featured Artist Fiona Holding